''History Doesn't Repeat Itself -- But It Rhymes''
By Jack Kinsella
note:Someone sent me a link to this article by my
friend Jack Kinsella from some years ago. It is
archived within his Omega Letter archives. It is one
of the most pertinent think-pieces I've read,
portraying an historical era that our time so
closely mirrors as to be frighteningly eerie. It is
from June 4, 2011.
In 1933, Adolf Hitler was elected Chancellor of
Germany. He took office in January, with Fritz Von Papen
as vice-Chancellor to keep him in check. Only twenty
years earlier the German Kaiser led his people into a
disastrous war with the West.
Germans had had enough of the monarchy and the
absolute power it had, and demanded the Kaiser's
abdication. Having gotten rid of the Emperor, the new
German Republic carefully separated powers between the
presidency and the chancellery.
But President Von Hindenburg was 86 years old when
Hitler assumed the title of Chancellor of Germany. The
timing was perfect.
Hitler's ascendancy was meteoric. In the early
1920's, he was little more than a neighborhood
organizer. Over time, as hyper-inflation and
catastrophic unemployment hit Germany, Hitler's
movement, dubbed 'national socialism' grew into a fringe
In 1923, leading what he hoped would be a violent
overthrow of the Weimar Republic, Hitler leapt to a
table in a beer hall in Bavaria and called on a
gathering of officials to support him in the march on
Instead, they arrested him, put him in prison and
outlawed the Nazi party. After his release, Hitler set
about reorganizing the national socialists as a
movement. In 1927, when the government lifted the ban on
national socialism, it became a political party. In
1928, the Nazis managed only 3% of the vote.
It wasn't until 1931 that Hitler began to made
inroads within the vast German center-right political
monolith still controlled by traditional conservatives
like von Hindenberg.
In the 1932 election, thanks to such tactics as voter
intimidation, voter registration fraud, voter fraud at
the polls, etc. the national socialists managed a solid
majority in Parliament.
In January, 1933 and only days after Hitler assumed
the chancellorship, there was an explosion followed by a
fire in the Parliament building. Hitler declared an
emergency and rammed home the 1933 Enabling Act that
allowed an emergency suspension of civil rights.
Desperate times call for desperate measures.
President von Hindenburg died in August, 1934. Within
hours of his death, the German parliament issued the
following press release:
"The Reich Government has enacted the following
law which is hereby promulgated.
Section 1. The office of Reich President will be
combined with that of Reich Chancellor. The existing
authority of the Reich President will consequently
be transferred to the Führer and Reich Chancellor,
Adolf Hitler. He will select his deputy.
Section 2. This law is effective as of the time
of the death of Reich President von Hindenburg."
The law was technically illegal since it violated
provisions of the German constitution concerning
presidential succession as well as the Enabling Act of
1933 which forbade Hitler from altering the presidency.
But whether or not he was legally eligible to serve
didn't matter much anymore.
Hitler declared himself Fuhrer and ordered a
referendum to retroactively confirm it.
So on August 19, Germany, still grieving its beloved
war hero and president, went to the polls and confirmed
Adolf Hitler as their Fuhrer, an action that only four
years earlier would have been unthinkable.
Desperate times called for desperate measures.
In 1933, Germany was one of the most cultured and
honorable nations on earth. German honor was legendary,
particularly among German military officers who would
rather die than dishonor themselves or their sacred oath
The German culture at the time was such that, despite
the World War and its excesses, Germany was THE place
for foreign exchange students and was a favored
Hitler was widely respected at first for his
governing ability. He nationalized much of Germany's
banking system and began pouring money into the German
The first interstate highway system in the world was
Adolf Hitler's Autobahn. The 'People's Car' (Volkswagen
in German) was introduced at Hitler's insistence.
Hitler's political popularity morphed into a kind of
cult worship in which he was styled as the German
messiah. (The word 'fuhrer' is generally translated
'leader' but it is actually closer to the English word
Britain's King Edward had so fallen under Hitler's
spell that it was necessary to force his abdication to
prevent England from being ruled by a Nazi sympathizer.
(Edward died in exile in 1972)
In 1934, when Adolf Hitler became the supreme leader
of Germany, Germany had both a free press and a legally
The German Republic was a functioning, western-style
representative democracy. Germany was known for, and
disliked because of its excesses, but it was also known
for being one of the world's most honorable countries.
The demands of national socialism required rounding
up certain classes of people. Experiments began on
efficient ways to euthanize those deemed to be a drain
on the German economy or damaging to its culture.
At first, it was baby steps, nationalizing the banks,
rounding up firearms, demonizing certain classes of
But desperate times call for desperate measures.
The trick to making it all work is making sure the
times are desperate enough to justify the measures being
Here's the point. When von Hindenburg died in August,
1934, Germany was still one of the most honorable and
cultured nations in Europe and everybody from King
Edward of England to FDR thought Hitler was the greatest
thing since sliced bread.
FDR's biggest worry abut Germany in 1934 was that
competition posed by growing German industrial power
might further damage America's depressed economy.
Only four years later, German Jews were being beaten
and killed and their property either destroyed or
confiscated during Kristallnacht (The Night of the
What is the point I am trying to make here? There is
no period in history that more perfectly mirrors the
current global situation that that of the 1930s -- and
on almost every scale of measurement; economic,
political and spiritual.
One of the truisms of history, which has been
observed by everyone from philosopher Georges Santayana
to George Bernard Shaw is this: "One thing we learn from
history is that we learn nothing from history. "
So, what does history teach us? Free speech is only
free under certain circumstances in this brave, new 21st
And my sense of history tells me this isn't one of